You hear the grinding metal and brakes squealing and already know this is not good. You just got hit from behind and your mind floods with a thousand thoughts—who will pick up the kids from school? How will I get to work tomorrow? Should I fill out a police report?
This blog will take you through the process step by step so you are prepared if the worst case scenario plays out and involves you.
The most important thing you must do in any motor vehicle crash is to make a police report. This is not just good to do, it is mandatory that you report every crash that involves damage to property of $1,500 or more, personal injury, or death in Illinois. This should be done as soon as possible, but for sure within 10 days of the crash.
Besides being the law, it is also extremely prudent to do so in that it preserves your version of events in a timely manner. This guards against a common attempted “defense” to claims by insurance companies who claim nothing happened because nothing was reported.
Other than a few folks left who refuse to carry phones on their person at all times, for better or worse, the other 99.9% of us pretty much consider the smartphone an extension of ourselves. Face it; your phone goes everywhere you do and a car crash is a perfect opportunity to use it for a good purpose.
Photograph the vehicles as they are right after the crash. Take photos of the damage to both vehicles. If you are concerned the other driver won’t reveal information to you or appears to be trying to flee the scene, take a quick picture of the license plates. If the airbags have deployed, photograph them inflated. Finally, if you have any cuts, bruises, or swelling, take a picture.
Call 911. There are some instances when police will not come to the scene and require you to drive to the station if cars are drivable and no one is injured seriously, but always call first.
If the police do come, make a very factual matter-of-fact report of what happened, how you feel, and what you know. Don’t speculate, volunteer information, or get angry.
If the police will not come to the scene, talk to the other driver to obtain the name and policy number of their insurance carrier. But do not discuss anything else with them. Then go to the police station and complete a report immediately if you are not seriously hurt.
Any discussion with the other driver at the scene is always a bad idea. First of all, you will probably not be thinking clearly, especially if you are injured. If you were predominantly at fault, you may say something that could be construed as an admission. If the other driver was at fault, you may say something that inadvertently admits to some fault of your own. You may also fail to mention your injuries completely. There are dozens of things that can go wrong from talking with the other driver(s). Just don’t.
Report this incident to your carrier. Even if you are positive it is not your fault, just in case someone else blames you, you will want to honor your policy which invariably requires you to report any crash in a timely manner and to cooperate with your insurer. Reporting a crash when you get sued two years later for the first time voids your coverage.
I get asked often how long one has to get medical treatment following a crash. There is no hard and fast “rule” on this point, but it is always essential that you obtain treatment as soon as possible.
The best evidence of an injury is a contemporaneous report of what happened and how you are feeling to a medical professional.
If you are hurt badly enough to where you cannot think straight or have immediate pain, numbness in your extremities, blurry vision, or nausea, you should accept a ride to the emergency room from an ambulance. Do not try to “hope it gets better,” or “tough it out.” Not only is that bad for your health; it’s bad for any personal injury claim you may have. Any gap in getting medical treatment will be exploited by the other driver’s insurance carrier.
Never provide a statement to anyone about what happened except your own medical professionals and the police. You may speak to your own insurer, but do not provide a recorded statement. Never speak to the other driver’s insurer at all. Let the lawyer do that.
As soon as you can, contact a lawyer. More people make inadvertent errors that submarine their cases by not retaining lawyers early on than there are atoms in the atmosphere. It is always a good move to call a lawyer before doing anything.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.